Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkin Gilman - response to Scudder's (editor of the Atlantic Monthly) comments

Essay by blackice444High School, 12th gradeA, March 2004

download word file, 2 pages 0.0

Horace Scudder, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, rejected Charlotte Perkin Gilman's request for her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" to be published on the grounds that it was not 'morally uplifting'. It is understandable that editors would want 'happy' stories as their main market are people who read for enjoyment and to escape from day-to-day life. They do not want to read about political and societal problems. This explains why, for business purposes, they would not want to publish the short story. Yet Scudder did not seem to fully understand the undertones of "The Yellow Wallpaper", as all he cared to mention was that it made him 'miserable'.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" gives readers an insight into the world of depression, which many people from that era never saw, and definitely did not understand. Medical groups did not know of post-natal depression, which lead to a wrong diagnosis of her problem and therefore an improper treatment.

She was isolated and told not to do anything stimulating. In 2004 she would have had treatment which consists of anti-depressant drugs like Prozac and counselling and support groups. One could argue that her tale of depression led to the discovery of a new form of depression.

It is also debatable as to whether or not the story was all that miserable. The general story is somewhat gloomy as we see the main character's condition go from bad to worse. In the end though, the main character who was suffering from depression escapes from the forced containment. To me this seems happy as she finally has freedom to do what she wants. Same goes for the symbolic subplot. The climax is that the woman imprisoned by the wallpaper manages to get out, suggesting that men no longer control women.

As mentioned in the Afterword, no-one at the time seemed to pick up on the underlying feminist theme. But is it really possible for an entire nation of readers to miss the subtle hints? It is always a woman creeping around and she can only move when the husband is not inside the house. It could be that if someone was to mention it, there would be a lot of publicity leading to a greater following of the feminist movement, so it is understandable that Scudder would not want such a thing published.